Port of Baltimore shipping channel could fully reopen this weekend after bridge collapse

ByElizabeth Wolfe and Sarah Dewberry CNNWire logo
Thursday, June 6, 2024
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BALTIMORE -- The Port of Baltimore channel could fully reopen this weekend after nearly 11 weeks of painstaking operations to remove massive pieces of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge that have been blocking much of the crucial shipping artery.

The entire 700-foot wide channel is expected to reopen between Saturday and Monday, a step made possible by the removal of the last piece of steel bridge that has been blocking the channel since its collapse in March, the Unified Command said in an update.

Clearing the final piece of bridge truss - a structure of interconnected concrete, cables and steel rebar - was completed earlier this week using concrete breakers, torches and underwater surveys, Unified Command said.

Though crews last month were able to clear a limited, 400-foot avenue for vessels to pass through, the complete reopening of the channel will usher in a return to full operations at the port - an essential international cargo destination and employer of thousands of local workers.

The 1.6-mile bridge crashed into the Patapsco River on March 26 after a 213-million pound cargo ship lost power and collided with one of the bridge's support columns - killing six construction workers. The vessel remained stuck in the waterway for nearly two months as crews worked to remove a piece of the bridge pinning down its bow, finally hauling the ship away on May 20.

The removal of the ship allowed for the temporary 400-foot channel to be opened. A pair of cruise ships set sail on May 27 from the Port of Baltimore for the first time since the bridge collapse.

Multiple agencies have launched investigations to determine who might be responsible for the catastrophic collapse, including the FBI, the US Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Meantime, Baltimore officials have been working with the federal government to restore economic activity at the port and plan the rebuilding of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which served as a critical thoroughfare for about 30,000 daily commuters, according to Maryland Gov. Wes Moore.

The port also supports 15,330 direct jobs and 139,180 jobs in Maryland, according to the state's website.

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